Every year since 1971, the Lake Geneva Horticultural Society puts on The Tulip Festival from mid-April to mid-May in Morges, Switzerland. It lasts six weeks and presents 150,000 tulips of 250 varieties in every available size, shape and color. Last year, we walked the lakeside, checked out the tulips and stopped for lunch (they have a tent with decent food lakeside).
Lots of places have Tulip Festivals including: Netherland’s Keukenhof Gardens, Holland (in Michigan), Ottawa, Kashmir, the Skagit Valley, Istanbul, Amsterdam, and Perth. Morges is a cute town with a beautiful lakeside. All the flowers make the already beautiful lakeside park feel it festive.
The festival appears to be a group effort. The city of Morges and the regional tourism office assist the Lake Geneva Horticultural Society. Apprentice gardeners assist the city workers and volunteers with the planting. Cities as diverse as Istanbul and Yverdon-les-Bains have donated bulbs.
By the way, Morges is known for its connection to Audrey Hepburn. She lived for years in the nearby town of Tolochenaz, where she is buried.
When Magglio was here, he was intrigued by huge yellow fields of flowering plants that, from a distance, looked like Canola. We asked the proprietor of a cafe what they were. He told us that they had two names. In France, they are known as “pissenlit,” which translates to “pissing the bed” (and is also another term for dandelion). In Switzerland, they are known as “dents de lion,” which translates to “lion’s teeth.” He showed us a salad of the greens. Apparently you can only eat the plant’s greens before they flower. After they flower, they become too bitter.
We stopped at a field to investigate. It was beautiful. Knowing the name, we bought some at the market the next day and made our own. Tasty.
The plants had just begun to flower and continued to do so. I couldn’t understand why the fields would be filled with them if they weren’t for some other purpose. They grew quickly. On our hike last weekend, two weeks after Magglio’s visit, they were taller than me (not that it’s hard).
Curious, I did a bit of research and determined that they are Colza (Brassica rapa), a type of rapeseed. I’d never heard of it before. Looking up translations, it translates to…Colza. So much for that.
Apparently, Colza oil is big in Europe. They extract the oil for both industrial applications and food. Historically, it was used to light streetlights before electric lighting, to light lighthouses, and in lamps in the place of whale oil. It is also used to calm choppy seas and even as biodiesel. They use the cake after the extraction as feed for pigs. Us? We just like the flowering fields.
Their umbrella like branches provide shade and line country roads, promenades and town squares. If not pruned back, they can grow quite large.
Everyone who visits remarks on the trees. The produce lush foliage, are majestic and lend an elegant air to the lakeside. However, most visitors are intrigued by/interested in its bark, which has a mottled, scaly appearance. Mature bark peels off in irregularly shaped patches.
Plane trees have a storied history along roadsides in this area. Napoleon ordered their extensive planting on roadsides so that he could take advantage of their grand canopies to keep his marching army cool.
Unfortunately, a fungus is attacking them. During WWII, US soldiers brought munition boxes made from a US version of the tree. They carried with them a fungus that has been attacking the trees and has spread.
Geneva’s trees look unaffected. They prune them back in the fall after their leaves have fallen. With their interesting bark and elegant shape, we like the look of them in winter too. Heck, we like them in spring and fall as well.